PITTSFIELD -- It's a moment that Domenic Izzi hopes the students remember forever -- for their sake, as well as his family's.
Six Herberg Middle School students this week received their first musical instrument through The Domenic A. Izzi Jr. Foundation for Young Aspiring Musicians in memory of his son.
"I've never owned my own instrument," said eighth-grader Adam Shepardson, after carefully zipping his new violin into its case. He's previously been borrowing one from the school. "Playing violin is something I love more than anything.
The foundation's mission is to provide financial assistance for children to purchase musical instruments in memory of Izzi Jr., who was an accomplished graphic artist, photographer, editor, as well as a musician, according to his father.
He was killed at age 40 in Providence, R.I. in an accident caused by a drunk driver in March 2012.
Izzi was connected to Herberg through Mike Filpi, business manager for the Pittsfield-based Laborers' Local 473, one of 30 chapters of the Laborers International Union of North America that donate to the foundation. The Izzis are members of the union.
Other union members, parents and Mayor Daniel Bianchi attended a presentation on Thursday morning to give words of support to the students, the foundation and the laborers union.
Following a few musical performances from Herberg seventh- and eighth-graders, under the direction of Alla Zernitskaya, six students were presented brand new instruments and cases. Seventh-grade students Karissa Yzerman-Gleason and Chenyang Lin, and Shepardson each received a violin. Eighth-grader Olivia Nda and seventh-grader Juan Silvio Demaza each received a viola. Eighth-grader Kamea Quetti received a new cello. An additional violin was donated for general use to the Herberg music department.
Both Adam and Olivia have been playing their respective instruments since the third grade.
"It's been really nice to have the opportunity to play an instrument and now it's nice to have something of my own," Olivia said. She said playing the viola and being part of the school's orchestra has taught her "discipline, time management and has given me confidence."
Zernitskaya said Principal Chris Jacoby has helped recruit students for the string orchestra program over the years, growing it from three students to 23 members.
Adam also credited his teacher for the quality of the program, which Izzi called "truly outstanding."
"[Zernitskaya] sets the bar really high, but we all really appreciate that," he said. "It teaches me to push myself and to try something new."
For more information
To learn more about The Domenic A. Izzi Jr. Foundation for Young Aspiring Musicians, call (401) 231-4967 or write to the foundation at 40 Brayton Road, Smithfield, RI 02917-1111.